Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ups and Downs

After a brilliant start to the season, things no longer look so shiny for the Arizona Wildcats.  The regular season Pac-12 championship is out of reach.  We have lost four of seven, and our tournament seed is slipping.  Broadcasters love to speak of the importance of momentum going into the tournament.  I'm not really a believer in that concept, but psychologically, I think it must matter.  The fans are feeling down, and I imagine so is the team.  Everyone is looking for answers.  What has been the problem of late?  It should be obvious to anyone paying attention.  It's defense.

For quite some time, the offense was slipping..  Efficiency was down as were assists.  Although the trends are noisy, it's fairly clear that the offense bottomed out in mid to late January.  Since that time, the Cats play has improved.  Even though we have dropped four of seven, over that time span, our offensive efficiency has averaged a respectable 1.08 points per possession, and our assist rate has been climbing:

If we could couple that offense with an effective defense, Arizona would be a very difficult team to beat, but the last four losses are among our worst defensive performances of the year:

Against USC, we had our worst game on defense, allowing just under 1.2 points per possession.  The Cal loss ranks at #2 at nearly 1.19, closely followed by the Colorado game.  The loss to UCLA ranks #5.  Against Florida, the defense was slightly worse.

When the defense is giving up points at a rate near 1.2 points per possession, it's nearly impossible to win games.  Arizona has only eclipsed that mark on offense four times this season.  That the Cats have stayed close in most of these tells you that the offense is working well.  How can the defense be fixed?  I'm not sure.  I think that comes down to a question of X's and O's, and tactics are not my strong suit.  One thing I do know is that I have seen teams use the same strategies repeatedly against the Cats.  A guard gets into the lane, and the defense has to adjust.  A man is left open.  Easy bucket. 

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